The Insidious Addiction

I’ve never smoked a day in my life. Not cigarettes, not weed. Forget anything harder.

I started drinking only in my late twenties. Never have drunk more than maybe a couple of beers a week.

I used to be glued to my TV for a couple of years when I had no job and I had effectively quit studies, but cut the cable about ten years ago and never looked back.

It’s food.

It’s the explosion of cheese in my mouth, the strong umami flavour and aroma of meats. The reassuring sweetness of soda washing across my taste buds. It’s the crackle of the crisp skin followed by the full flavour of the oil as I bite into a piece of fried chicken. It’s pepper and oregano and garlic. It’s the salty delight of a piece of crisply toasted bread, yellow and glistening with butter.

Even as I write, I can feel the saliva forming around my tongue, pooling between my lower lip and teeth.The above passage has been enough to trigger it. Even though I am objectively not hungry, I cannot be, I feel the familiar emptiness in my stomach, the slight ache that tells me the addiction is calling.

What does an alchohlic do? He quits drinking? What does a smoker do? He quits smoking. Sure, it takes time, and effort and patience, but that’s the whole deal, isn’t it? To quit? So how the fuck do you quit eating? How the fuck do you shake off an addiction to something you NEED to do every day.

Oh I know! Of course not eating is not a solution. I just have to eat less, and eat right! That’s the key. Except, that’s where the mind kicks in. See, if I could just not do it, I would be ok. I would cut the act out of my life. But I have to eat, and I have to do it 3-4 times a day. And every time I do, every bite of healthy food I consume reminds me that I COULD be ingesting something loaded with sugar and fat. Something delicious. Something that would not just make my day, but make life worth living.

This is where this addiction is similar to other, more obvious ones. Food makes everything better. A movie isn’t a movie without a mile high pile of popcorn, aglow with fake orange cheese-flavoured mutant dust. Chicken nuggets become as essential to gaming as the controller. A good book makes more sense with pizza. The world seems brighter with the taste, texture and aroma of food in it. More importantly, without it, the world is bleak. I’m fidgety, restless, unable to concentrate on anything other than the gnawing feeling in my stomach and the insistent irritability of an empty mouth. My body doesn’t need food, but it craves it; Pushes me to the fridge where I can rip open a packet of cheese with my teeth and wolf down a couple of slices before the guilt pulls me away.

Food addiction is a topic of entertainment, at least in the cultural zeitgeist. The image of the addict with a rubber band around his arm and a syringe in his hand invites disgust, but also concern. It is a Very Serious Problem. Not so the neckbeard stuffing his face with pizza. And the issue is not that our problem isn’t treated as seriously by others, because drug addicts certainly need and deserve more immediate attention. No, the issue is that it makes US take our problem less seriously. “Oh ha ha” we chuckle, “having a jar of candy next to the computer is not a real problem, it’s just a thing fat geeks do. Gotta laugh at ourselves, gotta be good humoured about it.” We tell ourselves, as we reach for the last, and every other slice of pizza.

And yeah, then comes the best, most fun part – the loathing and the guilt. If only it could be harnessed for energy, because this is the perfect self-powered machine. I hate myself because I eat so much, and then I eat some more to distract myself from how much I hate myself. It’s kind of elegant in its perfection. When out with people I find myself  volunteering to take the group photo more and more, because it gives me an excuse to not actually be in the photo. I try to avoid the mirror as much as I can. Hell, simply glancing down and seeing the mass of flesh is enough to send my self esteem plummeting. And you know what can help buoy the mood when one is especially low? A nice, cold litre-bottle of soda.

This blog, more than anything else, is a sounding board. I hope people will read what I write, and maybe identify our common weaknesses and realise they are not alone, but I am also aware of how little a chance there is of any such intensely personal blog gaining any kind of audience. No, this blog is mostly for me to write about how I feel, because that as long as I am writing, I don’t hate myself. My thoughts aren’t a jumbled mess, they are neatly laid out in an ordered, structured format, and for a little while, things make sense. I know the preceding 850+ words (if ANYONE has come this far) paints a bleak picture, but there are ways. I haven’t given up, and I try every day. And I even win! Sometimes. So if you can identify with anything I wrote, and are looking for ways to at least get started in weaning yourself off food, let me end this blog with some notes on what helps me.

  1. Eat a heavy breakfast, load up on fruits.
  2. Carry a bottle of cold water, take frequent sips to stave off the soda cravings
  3. Some cravings you WILL give into. Learn to identify the ones you can fight and always, ALWAYS fight them.
  4. There’s a difference between “I NEED to eat something decadent right now” and “I’d like to eat something decadant right now”. For people like us, the “needs” are frequent enough. Don’t give in to the “likes”.
  5. Nuts are your friend. Carry some. They keep you full and have a heavy, umami flavour that kind of suppresses the cravings. Salted, glazed etc nuts don’t count, but roasted is ok.
  6. Chewing gum occasionally helps, if only to stave off the oral fixation.
  7. Skip starters. Go straight the entree.
  8. Split a dessert. Often, you will realise the first two spoonfuls of cake taste so much better than the rest of it.
  9. Don’t be afraid to leave food in the plate or soda in the glass if you feel you can. Yes, it’s wasting food, but right now, the focus should be on minimising what goes in.
  10. Don’t have “cheat days”. Don’t fool yourself, people like us take a hundred un-designated cheat days. When you have the discipline to stick to cheat days, you won’t need cheat days.
  11. Reward yourself with books and movies and other awesome things when you hit weight goals.
  12. Have weight goals.

 

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One thought on “The Insidious Addiction

  1. Okay, this is my story! I am a diabetic, I crave sweets, know I shouldn’t be having any except perhaps one or two every week, and end up gulping three to four every day! Also, ditto for the self loathing part – at one point used to be fat, looked 20 years older than what I was and hated every inch of myself; in fact a part of me still does. Thanks a ton for writing about a problem many would make fun of, and many more would attach no importance to. Will try the tips, they seem doable!

    Like

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